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Published: September 19th 2016
Floating islands and Puno
Crossing the border into Peru was really straightforward, once we finally left a busy Copacabana in Bolivia. We headed for Puno, maybe not the most attractive of cities but great food and of course has the Uros islands, floating islands. Which we headed straight out to the following day. The floating islands are made with blocks of soil which are tied together with rope and held down with sticks. The top of the islands are layered with reeds which are from the island and have to be replaced every two weeks. Standing on the islands is interesting as they are pretty bouncy, with the reeds having to be around 2m in thickness. We were shown round 2 of the islands and visited people's homes, they even showed us how to eat the reeds, which were good nutrients for people. It was amazing to see how people survive on the islands and how they have set up the islands, even to the point that they can have kitchens complete with stone base over the reeds to prevent fires. After buying many local knitting the women had done, we were then taken in one of their boats, rowed
by the locals across to the capital island. Here one local showed us a small but which was for people to stay overnight on the island.
After this it was back to Puno for some food and off to get a comfy bus to Arequipa.
Arequipa, not too far down the road, is lower in altitude and is the second city of Peru. This was a lovely town with quite a European centre, dominated by the cathedral and old Spanish colonial buildings surrounding the centre. Our first visit to the city was a walking tour which took an hour before we found one that was going, after some organic chocolate with some other people we met looking for a city tour we joined one which took us across the city, learning about their famous queso helado, cheese ice cream (which isn't actually cheese but milk), saw their old jail, which is now a school, a llama farm, and saw some epic architecture from Spanish times, which often seemed to feature heads on stone, on most of their churches and buildings. We got some great views of the volcanoes that surround the city, one in particular which goes up
to almost 6000
m is called Misti, and is still active. Each year locals in the rural areas around Arequipa run up this volcano for prize money. It is incredible how some people are completely immune to altitude. Later we checked out their stunning cathedral which really is the centre point of the city.
Whilst in Arequipa, we also saw a nunnery, which actually made us feel a little uneasy. The places these nuns lived felt very enclosed and almost like a prison. One nun was very famous due to her belief and keenness to live in the nunnery, which always seems like a bit of a waste of life, considering there are people who do a lot outside in the community, why were people celebrating someone who spent her life in an isolated community like a nunnery!!
Finally we met the most famous woman in Peru, Juanita. As part of inca traditional they used to sacrifice young children to their mountain gods. Juanita was a 15 yr old girl who was found on a volcano 6000
m above sea level having been buried after being knocked out. She is believed to have been buried for 500 years. Not only
is it incredible the faith people had to bury their children as their belief made them carry out sacrifices but also how Juanita looked exactly how she did 500 years ago and had barely decomposed due to the preservation at that altitude. 2.45
am start to head off to the Colca canyon, one of the world's deepest canyons, which is a few hours out of Arequipa. At 8am we were watching Condors, flying above us being carried by the air currents which are apparently calmer in the early part of the day, hence why we had to be there so early. Afterwards we warmed up in some hot springs. We met a guy from Cuba here and had a great chat with him, his advice, see Cuba asap before it changes, job number one when I get back home, book another trip!! 😃 After lunch we visited a view point of some of the highest volcanoes in the area, one which is still very active, still spewing smoke and the occasional bit of larva, but a lot milder than it has been before.
One more day in Arequipa, enjoying the sights, the views of Misti and chilling
before our overnight adventure to Cusco.
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